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'Lean on Me': Eight of the best Bill Withers songs to listen to today

Much of the soul singer's back catalogue feels as essential and relevant today as it ever has

Musician Bill Withers, of 'Ain't No Sunshine' fame, died on April 3. Reuters
Musician Bill Withers, of 'Ain't No Sunshine' fame, died on April 3. Reuters

Bill Withers has died from heart complications at the age of 81, his family announced on Friday, April 3. The American musician wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including Lean on Me, Lovely Day and Ain’t No Sunshine,

The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday, March 30 in Los Angeles, the family's statement said.

(FILE PHOTO) Bill Withers has died at the age of 81 announced on April,3,2020. UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: HAMMERSMITH ODEON Photo of Bill WITHERS, 231-233 (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
Bill Withers has died at the age of 81, it was announced on Friday, April 3. Fin Costello / Redferns

Here, we take a look at his back catalogue, to reveal the eight songs you should play at home to remember Withers today:

1. 'Lean on Me'

Withers's death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with healthcare workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions of Lean on Me to help get through difficult times. The song, released in 1972, was originally on his Still Bill album, and reached number one in the US Billboard Chart.

2. 'Lovely Day'

Lovely Day is an upbeat soul favourite, ideal for humming to yourself to lift the spirits. The 1977 song is from the album Menagerie, and is notable for the 18-second note that Withers holds at the end, said to be one of the longest to have ever been recorded.

3. 'Use Me'

Use Me also features on Withers's 1972 album. The song details the ups and downs of a romantic relationship and was later covered by Grace Jones in 1981.

4. 'Just the Two of Us'

A collaboration with Grover Washington Jr, the 1989 song Just the Two of Us was co-written by Withers. It has been covered in pop culture a number of times, most notably when it was sampled by Will Smith for a song of the same name, about a father/son relationship, and by Eminem for the song 97' Bonnie and Clyde. The Will Smith version was parodied by Mike Myers's Dr Evil in an Austin Powers movie.

5. 'Grandma's Hands'

The soulful song is a tribute to Withers's maternal grandmother, Lula. The song details going to church, enjoying time together when he was a child and her nurturing side. The final verse touches on losing his grandmother, and he poignantly sings: "If I get to heaven I'll look for / Grandma's hands". The song is from his 1971 album, Just as I Am.

6. 'Ain’t No Sunshine'

Arguably Withers's most famous song, Ain't No Sunshine has been the soundtrack to many a mournful break-up. Identified as his breakout hit from his 1971 debut album, Just as I Am, the song was originally the B-side to Harlem, but Ain't No Sunshine received more radio airtime and was a hit, reaching number three on the US Billboard Chart.

7. 'Hope She’ll Be Happier'

Another song about love and loss, Hope She’ll Be Happier also comes from the album Just as I Am. As the title suggests, the song details a former flame finding new love, leaving our protagonist feeling lonelier than ever.

8. 'The Same Love That Made Me Laugh'

Fast-forward to 1974 and we have the songs from +'Justments (pronounced 'adjustments'), which tell the story of Withers's very public divorce from Denise Nicholas. The Same Love That Made Me Laugh is a little feistier than Withers's other break-up classics.

Additional reporting from AP

Updated: April 4, 2020 03:54 PM

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